Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Vegan Tuesday: Another Day, Another Daikon Rice Cake Recipe

Don't let the ho hum vibe of this post's title fool you. As I was preparing this recipe yesterday for today's Vegan Tuesday, I was convinced I was going to have to channel the legendary Johnny Cash and title this entry "Folsom Kitchen Blues." It seemed my attempt to create a vegetarian, if not vegan version of a daikon rice cake was eluding me once again. But, as can happen on occasion, the alchemy of the kitchen worked its magic. The batter rose, the flavors merged, and the result is a recipe I can happily share.  

A quick bit of background and then I have to move on to the main attraction because this really is one of the more involved recipes I've endeavored so far. After ordering the daikon rice cakes on the Slanted Door's menu several years ago I was inspired to try to make these in my own kitchen. My first attempt was a spectacular disaster. I'd made the mistake of being too literal in my culinary interpretation. I tried to make a batter out of daikon radish and cooked rice. I spent hours forcing cooked rice through a food mill that we'd picked up at E. Dehillerin in Paris. I grated, then pureed, the daikon into pulp. I think I tried to add an egg white before dousing it all in soy sauce. Then I stuck the whole thing in a Pyrex dish and shoved it into the oven. At four hundred degrees. For forty five minutes.

The results can be described in one word: Styrofoam. 

That was nearly nine years ago. Since then I've learned two valuable cooking lessons. The first, when in doubt, ask the chef. So, on a subsequent trip to Slanted Door I simply asked "Is there rice flour in these?" The answer was yes. The second bit of kitchen wisdom I've picked up is, if still in doubt, ask Jeeves. Or Google. Or the search engine of your choice. And then survey Google again. 

What follows is a vegan version of daikon rice cakes. I wanted to make these cakes without using sausage or shrimp and I knew that replacing all of that lost flavor was going to be a challenge. I opted to make a rich vegetable stock and some sauted vegetables and use those as my flavor source. Does excluding those items make this recipe traditional? Hmm. I'm going to say no. Is it easy? Um, sort of. It's more time-consuming than anything else. Is it tasty and worth all of that effort? You bet. 

A quick FYI, you will not need a food mill for this recipe, but you will need a bamboo steamer and a food processor. 

I'm still rambling and there's a detailed recipe to write, so, I'm done. If you have any questions, and if you're having trouble leaving a comment here, hit me up on Facebook or Food Buzz

Vegan Daikon Rice Cakes
For the stock... 
6 cups of water
2 heads baby bok choy, chopped (separate the stalks, and set leafy greens aside)
2 cups young shiitake mushrooms, sliced (the stems of young shiitakes are tender enough to use)
2 medium-sized carrots, chopped into 1/4 inch rounds
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/4 cup white miso paste

For the "cake batter"...
2 cups daikon, grated (two medium, or three young daikon)
5 scallions, chopped, excluding green stalks
1 cup young shiitake mushrooms, chopped
leafy greens reserved from baby boy choy (see above)
1 TBS dark sesame oil
1 1/2 cup brown rice flour
1 1/2 cups, plus 2 TBS vegetable, stock (again, see above)

Non-stick cooking spray

For frying...
2 TBS peanut oil 

Sesame seeds

1. Set a pot on low heat, large enough to hold a 10 inch bamboo steamer. Spray the bottom and sides of an eight inch spring form baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside. (You want the water to be ready when the batter is finished so keep an eye on its temp.)

2. Place six cups of water in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add stalks of baby bok choy, 2 cups shiitakes, and the chopped carrots and celery. Bring to a boil, then turn flame down, and allow to simmer for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour. When vegetables are soft, add 1/4 cup of miso into stock and stir until thoroughly mixed. Allow to simmer for ten more minutes, then remove from heat. Strain stock into a large mixing bowl, pressing liquid (and flavor) out of vegetables. This should leave you with about five cups or so. Set aside.

3. Heat sesame oil over medium high heat in a non-stick pan. When hot, add scallions, stirring frequently until nearly crispy (about two minutes.) Add shiitakes, grated daikon and leafy green parts of bok choy. Stir well so that all ingredients are mixed in pan. Add 1/2 cup of vegetable stock and cook daikon mixture until liquid evaporates - about 15 to 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and set aside. 

4. While daikon mixture is cooking, in a medium-sized bowl whisk together rice flour and one cup of vegetable stock. If the mixture seems too doughy carefully whisk in additional stock, half tablespoon at a time, until smooth but not runny. (I wouldn't add more than two tablespoons. If the mixture looks too runny, add more rice flour, a teaspoon at a time, until balanced. You want a smooth consistency that's not grainy, lumpy or runny.) 

5. Place daikon mixture into a food processor and pulse until well-blended. Be careful not to puree too enthusiastically; you don't want to liquify this. When ingredients look well-distributed, add mixture to bowl with rice batter. Stir until thoroughly mixed. 

6. Pour rice-and-daikon batter into prepared spring form pan and place in steamer. Place lid over steamer and turn up heat so that water comes just to a boil. Allow to steam for about 45 minutes. Check water levels frequently. When cake is cooked it will be springy to the touch. Remove from steamer and allow to cool. (You can set it in your fridge over night. I allowed mine to cool on the counter for three hours and it was fine.)

7. Release cake from spring form pan when properly cooled. Slice into 2 in X 3 in rectangles. Heat peanut oil in a non-stick pan. When hot, add pieces of daikon rice cake and fry first on one side, then the other, until brown and crispy, about 1 minute and a half to 2 minutes per side. Dust with toasted sesame seeds. Serve with favorite Asian dipping sauce. 

NOTES: I opted for brown rice which is why the pic of the cake above looks like a slice of whole wheat toast. Also, after making these I was a little burned out so instead of whipping up a dipping sauce I just drizzled some plain old soy sauce on them. It was a perfect compliment. Since I had to replace the sausage-and-shrimp goodness of the regular version, I had to come up with a flavorful substitute which is why I made the stock and used it instead of regular water when mixing the rice batter. A word of caution: The rice batter will seem grainy, almost sandy, when it's first mixed. Do not worry. It loses that texture when it is combined with the veggies and steamed. I opted to fry these in a little peanut oil because I like the flavor it imparts. You could use canola oil if you prefer. Lastly, since daikon is a radish, it can get awfully pithy. Seek out younger specimens. They'll have a nice bite to them but they won't have the bitter aftertaste. I suggest avoiding the large, knobby roots. If anyone knows if salting daikon - as you would eggplant - helps remove some of that bitterness please let me know. Oh, and before I forget, these are also gluten-free! Some rice flours are apparently not. I used Bob's Red Mill Brown Rice Flour. Look on the package to assure you're buying a gluten-free product if this is of concern to you. 

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